Posted: 25 Jul 2010 12:12 PM PDT
“140-character status updates to a network of followers.” That makes Twitter sound simple. But in fact, the social information platform has grown to be much more complex than its 140 character-limit suggests. The site not only connects people, but has also become an intricate information resource for everything from news to shopping deals.
Yet in many ways, the site’s actual functionality hasn’t exactly kept up with user interactions. Twitter’s interface has remained simple, which is why a lot of tweets take place through third-party sites and applications that make the experience more useful.
We’ve compiled a list of the top 20 third-party websites for making your Twitter experience more useful and easier to manage. Although this does not include the many desktop or mobile applications that are available for Twitter, we hope that it will make your browsing experience more enjoyable as you dive into the Twittersphere. Also, as a one-stop shop for Twitter apps, check out OneForty. We’d love to hear what’s missing from this list, including sites that you find useful in the comments.
Web Applications: HootSuite and Brizzly
With its recent update and HTML5 support, social media dashboard HootSuite has become one of the most useful Twitter web applications not only for individual users, but teams managing several accounts. In some ways, HootSuite has the look and feel of TweetDeck with the big differentiator of it being a web-based application, not requiring any downloads.
HootSuite enables you to update to multiple accounts at once, and supports Twitter, Facebook profiles and pages, LinkedIn, Ping.fm, WordPress, MySpace and Foursquare. Similar to TweetDeck, these features make the application useful for maintaining your overall social presence. Moreover, you can allow other users to jointly update an account, integrate Google Analytics for your stats and schedule tweets and updates ahead of time.
The HTML5 interface enables you to easily include an image or file with your update by simply dragging it from the desktop into the message box, which will automatically upload the file with an “Ow.ly” shortener for sharing. The fast loading of the dashboard is perhaps one of the most notable improvements, making the site more usable for users who manage dozens of accounts. If you don’t like Hootsuite, you should also check out Seesmic, which has a lot of similar features, but a different interface.
Brizzly has a different functionality from Hootsuite, but may be more appealing because of its simple interface. Brizzly is specifically focused on Twitter and no other networks, which makes the experience somewhat less distracting. It also includes subtle, but worthy features like automatically expanded URLs, which shows you exactly where you are going if you click, and displays replies and direct messages in a threaded form, making it easier to follow the conversation.
Filtering Through the Noise: TwitterTimes and Paper.li
After you log in with your Twitter username, The Twitter Tim.es creates a page that displays stories by filtering through what the people you follow have tweeted the most in a more presentable stream that is updated regularly. Though the design of the interface isn’t the best, The Twitter Times is effective in showing you who has tweeted the story along with the story headline and blurb to give you an idea of what it’s about. In some cases, the site shows you the full text of the post. It also gives you options to view popular stories on Twitter from media sources and Twitter Lists.
The site helps you filter through the noise and keep up with what is trending among the people you follow. If you’ve been off the grid for a couple hours, you can get a sense of what people are sharing and the news that is important among your Twitter community at any given moment.
Paper.li has similar functions but a different presentation. Users can create their own “newspaper” based on who they follow. Users can also create newspapers based on a Twitter hash tag or a Twitter list. Instead of a stream, Paper.li presents content by creating a custom homepage that separates content based on popularity and topics. The site does a great job of making the content visually appealing by including thumbnails, YouTube videos and blurbs.
Trends: TweetMeme and Trendistic
TweetMeme is best recognized for its bright green buttons on websites (like this one), enabling users to easily tweet the article they’re reading. All of the information is collected at TweetMeme from across the web, giving a good sense as to what is trending on Twitter. The site enables you to filter by categories and topics (entertainment, gaming, etc.) and to showcase the most retweeted links. You also get a brief blurb from the link being shared and are able to filter by news articles, images and videos.
Trendistic also works well, but specifically for bigger Twitter trends and how they have performed over time. The site gives you an idea of current trends and presents them in a graphic format, showing you the percentage that the trends account for at any give time. For example, on July 8, “heat” accounted for 1.8% of all tweets at 9 p.m. during LeBron James’ big announcement that he would be joining the Miami Heat. You can also sort the trend based on timeframe, and get a code to embed the chart on your site.
Twitter Lists: Tlists and PubliTweet
Tlists is a Twitter Lists directory where you can search by list topic, view popular lists, and create your own lists. Users can also apply to join a list, and the creator is then notified and can approve them to join the list depending on whether they are a good fit. Lists are a great curating tool in rounding up like-minded tweeters in one place. It functions not only as a directory, but also as a stream of useful information around a specific subject. But after you have that list, how can you make it more presentable?
PubliTweet takes your Twitter Lists and makes them a lot more useful. It does this by providing a nice embed code that presents the lists in a handy stream that includes the text of the tweet, headline, thumbnail and blurb of the article they are sharing. You can take the code and plant the list anywhere on your site. Not only does PubliTweet make your Twitter Lists more useful visually, the tweets are also more shareable through convenient Twitter, Facebook and e-mail share buttons.
Hashtag Stats: TwapperKeeper
TwapperKeeper and Trendistic are great tools for getting some basic stats on how much a specific hashtag on Twitter is performing. Though there are several other sites that give you more options (often for a price), these two sites are simple to use in getting a general overview. TwapperKeeper lets you create an archive for tracking a specific hashtag, keyword, or username and collects the data and the number of mentions. If you’re interested in getting a sense for how many times a specific hashtag was tweeted, it gives you a total number, along with the ability to search precisely through the archive that you created, listing the recent tweets that have been tracked. The beautiful part is that you can also export the data and analyze it to your liking.
Embedding Tweets: QuoteURL
Though Twitter released a script that allows interactive tweet embedding, the code has had some issues and isn’t always ideal. QuoteURL seems to be the best option for creating embedable tweets. The app enables you to add multiple tweet URLs and embed them into a post. You can also embed an individual one, but if you want to get a stream of tweets to embed, this is the tool to use.
The application gives you a nice, clean embed such that users can see the text of the tweet, but it also preserves the interactivity of being able to reply, click on the username, or any links within the tweet. Essentially, it mirrors the experience a user has engaging with individual tweets on Twitter. This makes your tweets a bit more useful than just a screenshot, however, many sites and blogs have yet to adopt it because the embed doesn’t show up in blogger’s RSS feeds.
Location: MapMash.in and Monitter
Though Twitter has launched its own location feature with Twitter Places, which will likely be expanded in the future, there are several other sites that showcase location-based tweets. Local Twitter Trends displays trends in major cities and allows you to click on the keywords to see what people are talking about. It’s very simple and to the point, giving you an easy way to track the conversation in a specific place.
However, if you want to track news on specific topics, monitter might be the better choice. This site allows you to not only search for a specific location, it also lets you track three specific searches within that area — in real time — and displays the results in an easy-to-view, three-column format. You can also adjust the radius of the area that you’re searching.
Discovery: WeFollow and Twellow
WeFollow is a Twitter directory from Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg, that emphasizes topics that users associate themselves with. Anyone can easily add themselves to the directory by simply tweeting out the hashtags that will make their usernames searchable in the directory. The site is great for discovering new users that you might share common interests with. It also enables you to view the top users in each category.
Twellow’s tagline is the “Twitter Yellow Pages,” and aims to be the directory to search for Twitter users based on industries and topics like biotechnology, food, home and garden, etc. In a lot of ways it is the ultimate directory for Twitter, also enabling you to search for users based on area. It also offers a very useful search engine.
Influence: Klout and TwitterCounter
Type a username into Klout and you can get a sense for how influential that user is on Twitter and their behavior. Klout gives you a score out of 100 based on reach, amplification and network after being compiled from numbers like the total retweets, message reach, unique mentions, retweeters, and more. The cool feature is the influence matrix, which defines the user and gives you a brief description of their behavior on Twitter. Klout also tells you who the user influences and is influenced by, as well as a topic summary of their tweets.
TwitterCounter tracks the top accounts and lists on Twitter based on how many followers they have and gives you some more basic numbers of influence based on growth and rank of the user’s account. The site provides some basic graphs tracking the number of the follower, following, and tweet growth over time, even setting a predicting number for where you will be in the future based on your average growth. It also enables you to easily compare several accounts at once, and build a handy widget for your site that tracks and displays recent Twitter visitors to your site.
Photos and Videos: TwitPic and yfrog
Among the first sites to make sharing photos on Twitter easy and popular, Twitpic is still one of the best. It’s also useful to browse through the public timeline of photos uploaded, and now you can even tie location to the photos you upload. It also lets you group photos into events, which is great for organization.
Yfrog lets you not only upload photos, but videos as well. The site is also extremely useful and easy to navigate. One simple Yfrog feature that Twitpic fails to include is a site search. Yfrog allows you to sort videos and pictures based on popularity, and showcases top search trends on the site. You can also easily share the photos across platforms and get an embed code for the image. Here’s an example of Glee star Mark Salling’s Yfrog post about a recent big catch:
Polls: PollDaddy and TwtPoll
PollDaddy has an easy integration for creating a quick poll that can be easily distributed on Twitter. The setup is easy. You create a poll question, select the answers (multiple choice, etc.) and the order you want them to appear, enter your username and post it to Twitter. The site sends a nice clean tweet with a link to the poll where users can vote. After setting the poll up, it is also quite easy to embed the poll into a post. It’s also worth mentioning PollDaddy has a great WordPress plugin that enables you to easily create polls within the content management system.
TwtPoll is similar to PollDaddy but has a different interface and allows users to answer questions through different formats, such as text, images or videos, Twitter handles or addresses.